Predicting the ACC in 2017: Florida State overtakes defending champs

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The college football season is creeping closer with each passing day, and fans are hungry to see their favorite programs back in action and find out what 2017 has in store.

So, let's feed a little bit of that hunger, shall we?

With the reigning national champion looking to stave off the competition and defend its crown, here is an early offseason prediction of how the ACC will shake out in 2017.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Team Conference Record Overall Record
Florida State 8-0 11-1
Louisville 7-1 11-1
Clemson 6-2 10-2
NC State 4-4 8-4
Wake Forest 3-5 6-6
Syracuse 1-7 4-8
Boston College 0-8 3-7

All records were compiled based on predictions and cross-referenced across all Power 5 conferences.

Three schools in the division have a realistic chance at double-digit win totals this year, so Clemson will be in tough to reach the ACC championship game, let alone repeat as national champion.

Both Florida State and Louisville stand to give the Tigers everything they can handle. In such an even three-way battle, their lack of experience at quarterback following Deshaun Watson's departure could be the one element that sets Clemson back in 2017.

Conference Predictions - Big 12: Tuesday, July 11
Conference Predictions - Big Ten: Wednesday, July 12
Conference Predictions - Pac-12: Thursday, July 13
Conference Predictions - SEC: Friday, July 14

Speaking of quarterbacks, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson will look to add to his trophy case and push Louisville to its first conference championship since 2012, when the Cardinals were a member of the Big East. Standing in his way will be another dynamic talent under center in the form of Deondre Francois, accompanied by Florida State.

The Seminoles not only have a strong returning core offensively and defensively, but boast the No. 4 incoming recruiting class in the nation, including five-star prospects in defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, running back Cam Akers, and defensive end Joshua Kaindoh.

The race for the Atlantic division bid in the ACC championship will come down to the wire. With head-to-head matchups between these three programs essentially determining the winner, it may be the Seminoles' time to shine.

COASTAL DIVISION

Team Conference Record Overall Record
Miami 7-1 10-2
North Carolina 6-2 10-2
Virginia Tech 5-3 8-4
Duke 4-4 6-6
Pittsburgh 3-5 5-7
Virginia 1-7 4-8
Georgia Tech 1-7 3-9

The Atlantic Division is shaping up to have one of the most heated races in the nation in 2017, but the Coastal Division won't lack excitement.

Each program in the division experienced significant turnover last season, whether at starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky, Brad Kaaya, Jerod Evans, Nathan Peterman) or in terms of other impact players across both sides of the field (David Njoku, James Conner, Nazair Jones, Rayshawn Jenkins, Ryan Switzer), so the team that takes the divisional crown will likely be the one that's most efficient at retooling the roster.

Enter Mark Richt.

Since taking over at Miami, Richt has been a consistently productive recruiter. This season would be a very convenient time for those efforts to start paying off. Miami currently has 10 recruits ranked in the ESPN 300 for this year's class, which is largely superior to that of divisional rivals North Carolina (four) and Virginia Tech (two).

The Tar Heels are not to be slept on, however, as the resurgence of Brandon Harris under center could keep North Carolina a viable threat to contend. Though Virginia Tech should never be counted out, the Hokies' current lack of depth in key offensive areas casts doubt on their ability to put points on the board.

With both divisions outlined, that leaves us with a battle for the ACC championship.

Florida State Seminoles vs. Miami Hurricanes

A championship berth would earn Richt significant trust from the Hurricanes faithful, but anything short of an effort of F5 proportions will likely see Florida State back atop the ACC for the first time since its back-to-back-to-back titles from 2012-14.

Predicted ACC champion: Florida State Seminoles (5th total title, 1st since 2014)

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